Typical milestones in a doctorate

These milestones are representative of most research projects, but you may want to add and remove milestones to match your own project.

Establish foundations

Early on you will be establishing the foundations of your research, typically surveying literature, refining your research question and learning to use relevant methodologies, resources and equipment.

Deepen understanding

Set yourself some early targets designed to deepen your understanding of the 'problem' or the issues around your research.

Evidence and data collection

You should also develop a number of targets (how much? what? where? and when?) for this phase of the project.

Reflection and evaluation

You will still be collecting data at this point but may also be undertaking some analysis. You should also be beginning to work towards concentrating on the most productive parts of your research and identifying an end point.


You will need to complete your 'solution' or framing of the argument, tie up loose ends and check for any emerging new literature.

Completion and submission

Finally you should be pulling the writing that you have done already into a thesis format, editing, proofing and then submitting the thesis.

It is a good idea to assign a time frame to these milestones, taking into account activities that must start or stop at specific times. Don't worry if your research is not conforming to this pattern exactly, but make sure to work to a plan. Writing up should not be left until the last six months, but is best done all the way through your research, with the final period focused on editing rather than producing new material.